By Bonnie Gangelhoff
What inspired your winning entry? I restore Volkswagens. I’ve been around them for years and know them inside and out. My favorite model is the PG/SG 57. It’s Volkswagen slang. It means Palm Green/Sand Green 1957. I wanted to do a really big painting. It’s such an iconic vehicle, I knew there didn’t need to be much else but the bus to inspire some emotion in people.
How did you get interested in Volkswagens? I’m from Argentina, and they aren’t super-popular there, so I fell into it by accident. When I got married, I needed a car and bought a red 1979 convertible bug to fix up. After that I started buying VWs, fixing them up, and selling them for cash. People stop by all the time when I’m working on them. A lot of people have memories connected to VWs—like when they were kids and they piled in a bus to go camping.
Do you come from an artistic background? We are all pretty artistic in my family. My brother is an animator, and my aunt and grandmother paint.
Where did you study art? Bridge Academy of Art in Provo, UT.
What is your favorite subject matter, and why? Right now it would be the human figure and Volkswagen buses. I feel like I have a human connection with the buses. As I restore them, I see the engineering side and the structural side first hand, and that helps me to paint them.
What is the best advice you have ever received? From artist Sean Diediker: “When you think you are 80 percent done with your painting, you are done.”
What is the one thing people will never see you paint? Something completely abstract. I see the value there, but for me it holds no interest or challenge.
Future goals? I would love to just paint full time in my studio. I am building a new one in my back yard, and
would love to support my family by painting.
Representation: Meyer Gallery, Park City, UT; www.santiagomichalek.com.
Featured in our annual “21 Over 31” competition in November 2010